Orchids are beautiful and delicate plants that require special care to thrive. Unfortunately, they are also susceptible to pest infestations that can quickly ruin their beauty.
If you’re a gardener who loves orchids, you may be wondering if there’s a safe and effective way to protect them from pests without resorting to harsh chemicals. The answer is yes – neem oil!
This natural pesticide has been used for centuries in India and is now gaining popularity among gardeners worldwide. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of neem oil and how to use it on your orchids to keep them healthy and pest-free.
So, let’s dive in!
Can I Spray Neem Oil On Orchids?
Yes, you can safely spray neem oil on your orchids to protect them from pests. Neem oil is a natural insecticide that is non-toxic to humans, animals, and beneficial insects. It comes from the Margosa tree found mostly in India and has been used for centuries as an insect repellent and for pest control.
To use neem oil on your orchids, mix it with a little dish soap and water before applying it as a foliar spray. This mixture can help deal with aphids, spider mites, scale, and many other common orchid pests. For widespread pest infestations, you may need to do more than one application to get the pests under control.
It’s important to note that if you’re using 100% pure neem oil, you should mix it with dish soap and water before using it on your orchids. Also, be sure to test a small amount first on smaller, more sensitive plants before applying it to your entire orchid collection.
What Is Neem Oil And How Does It Work?
Neem oil is a natural pest deterrent and insecticide that comes from the seeds of the Margosa tree. There are three main types of neem oil: 100% percent cold-pressed raw neem oil, neem cakes, and clarified hydrophobic neem oil.
Raw neem oil contains Azadirachtin, a natural insecticide that mimics the hormones of many insect species. When used in soil soaks, the Azadirachtin becomes a systemic insecticide consumed by any pest that pierces or chews the plant. Once ingested, Azadirachtin can block the appetite signals, cause infertility, and prevent nymphs from reaching adulthood. However, it should never be used in foliar sprays due to the risk of chemical burns.
Neem cakes are the solids left over from creating raw neem and contain trace amounts of neem oil and Azadirachtin. They are commonly used as a supplemental fertilizer and can be an effective barrier against ground-based pests without harming earthworms.
Clarified hydrophobic neem oil is a modified form of neem where most of the Azadirachtin is removed for use in chemical pesticides. It is most often used in foliar sprays due to its gentler nature and suffocates any bug it coats.
When using neem oil on your orchids, it’s important to mix it with dish soap and water before applying it as a foliar spray. This mixture can help deal with aphids, spider mites, scale, and many other common orchid pests. However, if you’re using 100% pure neem oil, you should test a small amount first on smaller, more sensitive plants before applying it to your entire orchid collection.
Benefits Of Using Neem Oil On Orchids
Using neem oil on your orchids has several benefits. Firstly, neem oil is a natural and safe pesticide that doesn’t harm humans, animals, or beneficial insects. This makes it a great choice for indoor plants like orchids. You can be assured that using neem oil won’t expose your family or pets to toxic chemicals.
Secondly, neem oil has antifungal properties that can prevent the germination of fungal spores on your orchid’s surface. This is important because fungal diseases can quickly spread and damage your orchids if left untreated.
Thirdly, neem oil can act as a natural leaf polish, giving your orchids a healthy and shiny appearance. This is especially important for orchids that are grown for their aesthetic value.
Finally, neem oil is effective against a wide range of pests that commonly affect orchids, including aphids, spider mites, and scale. This means that you can use neem oil to control multiple pest infestations with just one product.
When To Use Neem Oil On Orchids
It’s best to use neem oil on your orchids as a preventative measure, rather than waiting until you have a pest infestation. This means applying it every 14 to 21 days at watering time to keep pests at bay. However, if you do notice signs of a pest problem on your orchids such as yellowing leaves or webbing, it’s important to act quickly and apply the neem oil mixture as soon as possible.
It’s also important to note that neem oil should not be used on all types of orchids. Epiphytic orchids, which grow on trees and rocks, should not be treated with potting mix soaks as they require good air circulation around their roots. However, terrestrial orchids like Phaius and Bletilla can benefit from neem oil potting mix soaks.
How To Apply Neem Oil On Orchids
Here are the steps to apply neem oil on your orchids:
1. First, make sure that your orchids are dry and free of any dust or debris. It’s best to apply neem oil early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun is not too strong.
2. Mix 1 teaspoon of dish soap or pure castile soap with 2 tablespoons of raw neem oil in a container. Add enough water to make a total of 2-3 cups of the mixture.
3. Pour the mixture onto the soil directly over the roots, covering a roughly equal radius of the root spread. Avoid splashing the plant itself.
4. The neem oil will kill ground pests as it soaks down without harming earthworms and will be absorbed by the plant to become a systemic insecticide that doubles as a partial fungicide with antibacterial properties.
5. Reapply every 14 to 21 days at watering time as a preventative or until the infestation is gone.
It’s important to note that potting mix soaks may not be the best option for some orchids due to their epiphytic qualities. However, they are a great option for terrestrial orchids like Phaius and Bletilla.
Precautions And Safety Measures
While neem oil is generally safe to use on orchids, there are some precautions and safety measures that you should be aware of. Here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Avoid direct sunlight during treatment: Neem oil dissipates quickly, but a foliar spray is still water-based and can lead to sunburn when the wet leaves are exposed to direct sunlight.
2. Don’t treat in temperatures above 85° degrees Fahrenheit: Neem oil loses potency at higher temperatures, and the heat may also lead to burns due to the oil content.
3. Always test before treatment: Some orchid species can be more sensitive to neem oil. At the same time, individual plants can develop sensitivity, so test a small portion 24 hours before any treatment.
4. Avoid the blooms: The flowers of many orchid species, including Miltonia and Masdevallia, can be sensitive to neem, even if the rest of the plant isn’t, so try not to get any on the flowers when using a foliar spray.
5. Always spray outdoor plants at dusk or dawn: Bees and other beneficial insects are least active at this time, giving neem oil the 45 minutes to one hour needed to dissipate safely.
6. Avoid using neem oil close to inhabited water features: Azadirachtin, which is found in neem oil, is mildly toxic to many aquatic life forms.
7. Store neem oil properly: Pure neem oil will retain its potency much longer if stored at about 40 F in a low light area such as a refrigerator.
By following these precautions and safety measures, you can safely use neem oil to protect your orchids from pests without harming your plants or the environment.
Other Natural Pest Control Methods For Orchids
While neem oil is a great natural pest control method for orchids, there are other options available as well. One such option is horticultural oil, which works similarly to insecticidal soap by creating a fatty, waxy buildup that blocks the ability of insects to breathe. These oils are generally non-petroleum based and are safe for plants, children, and pets.
Another natural pest control method for orchids is using cinnamon. The oil from cinnamon has been scientifically proven to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi, making it a great option for preventing pests and diseases on your orchids. Plus, its aromatic scent can also deter pets from nibbling on your plants.
Pyrethrum is another natural insecticide derived from Chrysanthemum flowers. While it may sound like a harsh chemical, it actually poses a very low toxic risk for humans and pets and breaks down quickly, leaving no traces after several hours. When sprayed on insects, pyrethrum shuts down their central nervous systems on contact.
Eucalyptus oil is also an environmentally safe natural pesticide and insecticide that can combat a wide spectrum of threats ranging from fungi to mites and other insects. This option is particularly useful for those who are looking for a more eco-friendly solution to pest control.